Updated: Oct 17, 2020
My Fellow People,
I wish I could promise you great things. I wish I could promise you'll have a great time reading this, world peace is among us, and 0 calorie chocolate. Above all that, I wish I could promise this blog post wasn't overly laden with pie puns, jokes, and pie references, but alas, I can't make that promise. So let's cut a slice...
One day, I was walking to work, with the smell of toast in the air and thought about what a small country this really is. There are many ways NZ is small but I'm going to focus on the financial side of things for the following X number of words.
I'll start with market cap: for those that don't know market cap is basically the total value of how much a company's stock/equity is worth. When people say "Company X has a market cap of 100 billion dollars" what they mean is the total value of that company's equity is worth that much. The New York Stock Exchange has a market cap that is the sum of all the companies that trade on the NYSE. So how big or small is NZ? The market cap of the substitute meat company, Beyond is about $4 billion. The US Retailer, Target is about $54 billion. Apple alone is worth over $1.25 trillion. The S&P 500 represents a big chunk, but not even all the US' market cap, and it's about $28 trillion! So how big is NZ's piece of the pie? Guess, go on... give it the ol college try.
It's about $150 billion. How cute is that? I mean, to be fair, $150 billion is more than I'll earn this year. Heck, it may even be more than I make in the next 2 years. That's a lot of money, but it also means that all of NZ's stocks put together are still worth somewhere between the value of Chevron or Adobe (the company that opens your PDFs). The image below gives a visual of the scale we are talking about:
A Slice of Pie
It's been mentioned previously that pies are a common food here. They are practically their own section of the food pyramid at this point. We should take a moment and really dig into the fact that pies have entirely permeated Kiwi culture. So the following few paragraphs are going to get... very 'pie focused'. You may have noticed that some of the words I write tend to exaggerate, be hyperbolic, or stretch certain details because it's funnier, but that's not the case here. You are about to read 100% facts about all kinds of pies. So let's continue with the topic of New Zealand Finance and Pies. The NZ equivalent of a mutual fund come from businesses called Portfolio Investment Entities, or as an acronym, PIEs. So the funds themselves are called PIEs. No joke. To add to this confusion there is a single investment company that makes PIEs and they call themselves Pie Funds. So the pies keep stacking up.
As you know, pies are a common food in New Zealand. sausage rolls, potato mash pies, quiche pies, mince pies and so on and so on. The slightly funny part about being so pie-centric here is that they NEVER refer to a pizza as a pie. Not referring to pizza as pie is normal to me, after-all, I grew up in California, so the first time I heard someone refer to pizza as a pie I thought I was going to have to Google some images of pies just to make sure we were still having the same conversation; needless to say, it confused me. The fact of the matter is, pizza is a type of pie, but you won't hear that in New Zealand. Another pie-void in New Zealand is dessert pies. You can find apple crumble pies and MAYBE a different kind of fruit pie here and there, but you will never see a pecan pie, or blueberry, or chocolate satin or just about any other sweet pie. That's weird. Kiwis are pie people (or if you combine those words you could call them 'pieple'). yet they don't really have any dessert pies.
Things get a little competitive about how much they pride themselves on pie-making. You can buy the meat and savoury pies almost anywhere you can buy food in New Zealand; gas stations, supermarkets, restaurants, food trucks. Everywhere. If you walk into a supermarket (Kiwi word for grocery store), you can even buy boxes of pies. Walk into a store empty handed, walk out with 36 ready-made, assorted, mini pies for roughly $20. One of the largest pie makers, or pie companies or pie purveyors (or PIEveyors) is a company called Irvine's. That's funny to me for personal reasons and I thought it was worth mentioning. Here's a picture of a local-ish restaurant.
One morning at work, we had "tea". What is "tea"? I grew up thinking tea was water that was turned slightly brown and slightly gross, almost like a weird weighing station on its way to becoming an actual beverage. Now, as an adult, I see that tea can be delicious, so you may imagine my confusion when at "tea" that morning we had pies. We did not have any tea. Pies were present, tea was not. At this point, I have witnessed New Zealanders refer to "tea" as dinner, supper, a snack, or a brunch-esque meal time. "Tea" in New Zealand has taken on the mulit-use term of something like how people use the term "awesome" or "literally" in the US - it's a word with a definition, but people seem to just insert the word as a filler or non sequitur that makes it a catch all term.
So let's recap where we are at with pies:
Investments = Pies
Pies = Pies
Tea = Pies
Pizza ≠ Pies
One more note on pies and then you can get back to enjoying your life instead of reading a dissertation on pie-culture: dates are written differently here than they are written in the US. This may be an obvious fact. Christmas in the states is written as 12/25/20XX, but Christmas most places in the world is written with the day first as 25/12/20XX. I think the non-US version is more intuitive because it goes day, month, year, with each sequence indicating a longer time period. But then it struck me, with dates written this way, they don't write March 14th as 3/14, they would write 14/3... Are you with me? The people of the Pie Islands (or 'Pislands') don't have Pi day. It doesn't exist. This seems like a hugely missed opportunity. I'm going to write a sternly worded letter to Parliament.
Down here, you will often hear the term EFTPOS, or rather "effposs". In the States, we call it paywave, where you put your credit or debit card close to a pay terminal and it charges the card. It's been commonplace down here for quite some time, which is actually one of the ways NZ is ahead of the US. They've been paying via paywave for years, yet I remember it was a big deal when Costco implemented it in 2019, and they were cutting edge. Back to it, if you don't have a paywave feature, you have to insert a chip reader, and then the cashier will check the signature on your card and compare it to the signature that you provide on the terminal.
I would like to pause for a moment and give a disclaimer, that this is in no way an indictment on cashiers. They are people, they didn't choose this life or system, they are following orders. With that said, this is a huge indictment on whoever set up security this way. So let's think through it:
- If someone pays via paywave, great. They wave their card, it pays, everything moves on.
- If someone pays via chip or slider reader, the cashier has to validate their identity. They do this by checking the signature on the card with the one someone signed with the fake pen on the terminal. Now, I could be wrong, but if a person did steal a credit card, there's very little standing in their way of flipping that card over and seeing the signature and just copying that when they have to sign something. So this extra 'enhanced' security measure to me seems like the equivalent of asking someone verbally, "are you the owner of this card" and accepting their answer.
If someone can explain this to me in more detail, I would love to learn. Otherwise, I think this is just another example of nonsensical systems. Just a thought.
Get your health on
NZ Foods have a rating system. The idea is straight forward, any packaged food has a scale on it from 1 to 5 stars. Healthy foods are 5 stars, unhealthy foods are 1 star. But it's on everything. So next time you are completing a marathon, saving people from a burning building, or just have a very parched throat and need a big bottle of water to quench your thirst, you're in luck! As it turns out, water gets a 5 out of 5!.
Here's a link to read more about NZ health ratings here, if you really wanna dig in.
-- We had an airbnb host that I'll call neurotic, for lack of a better term. In fact, there is no better term, because they were neurotic. Here comes a verbal picture:
- AirBnB host called "Bob"
- Bob's place offers you and your loved one many of the amenities of home, knife, cutting board, white ware, cutlery, etc.... but only a max of 2 of each these things. 2 spoons, 2 knives, 2 forks. 2 bowls, 2 plates.... guess how many coffee mugs? Hint: the answer is more than 1, and it's about half of 4.
- Bob had instructions for how to throw things away. Instructions like "dry out your organic goods, put them in this bin, then line it with newspaper. Be sure to throw the organic goods away every day"
- Bob supplied us with a squeegee that hung in the shower. The directions in the bathroom asked that we wipe down the water from the walls of the shower after every use.
- All in all, there were 6 different signs, pamphlets, or instruction manuals for how to properly 'live' in Bob's place.
We had a lovely stay. Full stop.
Like Carole King, we felt the earth move
Here's a map of NZ:
Now everybody can clearly see exactly what this means. It's soooo obvious this is an image of the fault lines and how NZ is caught right between them. Duh. It's part of the North Island Fault System. A better way to explain this is that Wellington is pretty much a mosh pit of fault lines, and Wellington sits up high on the Iron Throne, while all the other plates, faults, and volcanic activity are fighting for that land. In non-nerd terms, Wellington is a big cliff that is overdue for a massive earthquake. If you've experienced an earthquake, then... I don't know what to say, but you're reading this so I'm assuming you got through it. I remember one in California in 2009 that was about a 5.6 or so on the Richter Scale, with an epicenter about 15 miles away. Quakes are weird experiences. They start off almost as ambient noise, like someone driving by in a big truck, or a lawn mower or something. Then it sounds different from other loud noises you are more familiar with and then you notice the walls around you are jiggling a little more than from a car, and then you feel it. Then... if you're like me... you lose your mind.
Such was our experience in Wellington in the middle of the night. We awoke to a rumbling that I would call unsettling, to put it mildly. My feelings were, a bit worried. I don't think this will be surprising to most, but when you feel an earthquake, part of the reason it's so scary is because you don't know when it's going to end or how bad it's going to get. Also, when you have been told that Wellington is going to collapse and then the walls start to shake, it's reasonable to feel a heightened sense of 'alarm'
Then it happened again in Christchurch on April 18th while I was sitting next to LC, watching an episode of Rick and Morty. It was like an invisible wave that shook our whole place for about 3 seconds. 3 seconds is juuuuust long enough to start sweating profusely from one's armpits, I can confirm this.
Between April and July we probably experienced about 5 quakes. Earthquakes are to Christchurch as potholes are to Colorado or as traffic is to California: they are part of the facts of life.
More on getting a job
I mentioned last time that I finally have a job. I'm very grateful that I have any job, let alone the one I currently have which is just about a dream come true, but it took a bit to get here. When we moved to this country, I was bright eyed and bushy tailed thinking I would walk into an office and collect a check within a few weeks. While that's unlikely in a normal circumstance it's less likely here because in the summer (around Christmas time) the Finance industry shuts down. I mean, it goes VERY quiet and no one is open, which made my task of getting a job a bit more...complex.
I applied for jobs. Many jobs. How many? 80. There were 80 emails to companies, recruiters, HR departments and the like. 80 cover letters. Several versions of resumes (even though they call them CVs here). It eventually all played out when I received 2 great job offers in the same day. It felt like being in kindergarten and I had the ball that all the kids wanted to play with. I mean, I'm guessing that's what it feels like because I'm not a very 'sporty' fellow, so I don't even know what a 'good ball' is. I'm realising in this moment, I should probably stop using sports metaphors to illustrate ideas or draw parallels. Getting a job is so much like dating. It's difficult, it takes numerous interactions that all have potential to get awkward while both parties try to sess out the other to see if they would be a good fit. The whole experience has been a great reminder that I really don't love the process of job hunting.
What's more, getting a job is largely about getting people to like you. That's very hard thing to overcome when you're not very likeable. My parents are great people, and they've produced children, that have some distinguishing features, my sister has a brain that she puts to constant use due to her relentless work-ethic, and I was blessed with 32 teeth that take up so much real estate you'd think I had 132 teeth. The gift that I was not blessed with was charm. Here's a great example:
A few years back I worked for a company that we'll call... P. Rowe Trice, or something like that. I interviewed with 2 people that I had previously met a few times, but I wasn't overly acquainted with them. Over the days and weeks before the interview, I thought it would be great if I could lighten the mood of the interview with something that would be funny, but not quite just telling a joke. Gary Shandling had a stand-up routine back in the 80s that I always thought was simple, quick and moderately clever, about getting a free pen from the bank. It's a joke because it was one of the pens with a chain on it, which clearly are not intended to be taken. So I figured I'd emulate that somehow. Back to the interview - when my time was wrapping up, I told my interviewers that I had gotten them each a gift. I went to my local bank and noted that the bank was handing out free pens. Out of my jacket pocket come 2 pens with chains on the ends of them. My hands place these down on the table and slowly slide the pens across the flat surface of the table, underneath my hand like a very cool poker move or something. There were about 3 seconds of quiet where my pen beneficiaries had to process what was happening - no laughing occurred. Then there were another 3 seconds where they very slowly (and confusedly) said "oh.... t.h.a.n.k. y.o.u.....?..."
Followed by another 3 seconds. Those final 3 seconds also did not have any laughs either.
In short, my plans didn't quite pan out the way I had hoped. I did actually end up getting that job, and one of the people that interviewed me became my boss. About 2.5 months later I passed by her desk, and on the wall of her cubicle I saw a pin stuck, and what was draped on that pin?
2 pens, connected via their chains.
Vexillology is the study of flags. If you're already bored from reading that - I get it. But hang in there. Back in 2016, New Zealand held a referendum for their flag. If you aren't familiar with the New Zealand flag, well, here >
Now you are. The referendum was held for a number of reasons but really as a way to form a sense of national identity, because if you look at that flag, you'll see the Union Jack on it plus 4 red stars, so it's fair to say that England has had some influence over New Zealand.
Then you look at Australia's flag. Then you think, "Oh, those flags are identical twins. They must have the same flag parents. Do you think when one flag feels a breeze blow through it, the other flag gets a 6th sense and can feel the same breeze?" - or you probably think something like that. But enough of getting side-tracked. New Zealand's vote for flag independence was opened to the public so that residents could submit their own designs and the vote came down to 40 main flags that the government narrowed down to. The vote ended up in favour of the current flag, so that didn't change, but it did bring to light some (pause and take a deep breath), let's call them... iconic images.
Are you familiar with laser kiwi? If not, strap in folks, because you're about to know AAALLLLLLL about it. Laser Kiwi flag was submitted as what I'm assuming was something of a joke, but it ended up gaining more press and traction than many people expected. Technically, it has all the makings of a great flag: it has a few basic colours- 4 colours to be precise, the images aren't overly complex, it's simple, it depicts the country's national bird, national plant, and above all, it shows POWER. The Laser Kiwi Flag has become something of a beacon of Kiwi-ism for New Zealanders throughout the world. When a New Zealander sees a Laser Kiwi Flag at an event (E.G. a marathon or Olympics) it works just like a Bat Symbol projection into the night sky. The difference is that a Laser Kiwi Flag is not a call to go fight crime, but rather to be courteous, respectful and reasonable.
It would absolutely make my day to post the picture here in this email, but I won't. I'm going to give you a link and if you want to go explore, the world is at your fingertips. Here you go.
Also, if you want to know more about the Flag Referendum, but also want to refrain from learning 'too much', John Oliver did a cover story on it that earns some chortling.
Chilly bin is a cooler/igloo
Scroggin is trail mix
Scull a drink is chugging
flatting is to live with other people/roommates
Growing up the US, I was told a goodly amount about Christopher Columbus. What I was never taught in school was:
1- His real name. He was Italian. Doesn't "Christopher" sound a little too... English for a 15th century Italian? The answer is yes. His real name was Cristoforo Colombo.
2- Where he did and didn't travel. He never set foot on North America. How weird that his name ended up all over a continent that he never saw, but hey, that's show-biz baby:
This isn't a social commentary - it's just interesting that such a divisive figure, and someone who's name is so universally "known", isn't actually. So... never mind, I guess it is sort of a social commentary.
- The Yankiwi